Manchester Orchestra @ The Hi-Fi, 12th November
I’m standing in a large, surprisingly diverse crowd of people watching Kevin Devine, a folk-musician and professional sad-man from Brooklyn. The spaciousness of The Hi-Fi chambers his already powerful vocals, he really could have done his entire set without a microphone.
I can’t help but notice that he seems like he would really appreciate it if the crowd would make less noise. I can see his eyes flick up from resting position at every clink of a bottle, and his gaze seems to linger toward a particularly loud section of the room. Regardless, he presses on, delivering a passionate performance, battling against the chatter.
The last song of his set, an acoustic version of Brothers Blood’is phenomenal; his guitar stops and the veins in his forehead grow larger and his voice strains as he doubles over. For a moment, the audience looks stunned and with a modest demeanour, he packs up his acoustic guitar and leaves.
In an interview with Manchester Orchestra’s guitarist, Robert McDowall, earlier this year, he mentioned that being able to record their latest album, Cope, in their bandmates’ house allowed them to have complete creative freedom with their music. It’s unfortunate that with that creative freedom they’ve removed the emotional and dynamic elements of their previous work and have replaced angst with anger. The exhaustion that was carried in Andy Hull’s voice is instead energetic and is focused on ‘rocking-the-fuck-out’ but in an ultimately less interesting way than before.
Shake It Out is still as impressive as ever and I Can Feel A Hot One is still the most explicit display of Manchester Orchestra’s emotional heights. These songs contrast to the songs from Cope, which find themselves taking the path of least resistance, whereas these songs fell flat for me on record, they barely hold my attention when played live, sounding like a muddy wave of indie-rock.
Midway through their set they announce that they’re going to perform ‘the worlds best guitar solo’. Hull and McDowell stand together, taking up a duelling guitar stance and begin to play a solo similar to something a talentless child who admires Jimmy Page might play in the middle of a guitar store. This happens just before Hull mocks Green Day on stage; the show has a relaxed attitude around it, giving it the feel of a small, intimate gig.
The heavy rock takes an appreciated rest as the encore performance is a small three-song set by Bad Books, Kevin Devine and Andy Hull’s side-project. I find myself entranced for a brief moment and then they play their final song, a cover of Yo! Home To Bel-Air by The Fresh Prince. Once more, the crowd is brought to a stunned silence.